Education secretary Jenny Gilruth says pupil exams in Scotland should not be needed in every school subject in future

A new exams qualifications body for Scotland is the key to ‘move away from an examinations-heavy focus’

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth has signalled she backs the end of exams for Scottish pupils in some subjects.

Her remarks came as MSPs on Thursday debated the proposals contained in the Hayward review, which set out a blueprint for the future of school qualifications last year, proposing the end of exams in S4 and the creation of a Scottish Diploma of Achievement.

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Ms Gilruth delayed a decision on the recommendations when they were first published, saying she wanted to consult further with teachers.

Scotland's Highers are more than a century oldScotland's Highers are more than a century old
Scotland's Highers are more than a century old

The Scotsman revealed on Wednesday that 57 per cent of teachers who responded to a huge Government survey “disagreed” with ending exams at National 5 level, warning it would leave pupils struggling with the transition to Highers, while raising doubts that internal assessments could be marked “fairly and consistently”.

Meanwhile, those surveyed noted the “workload implications for teachers” from marking internal assessments.

Ms Gilruth, who is still to officially respond to the Hayward report, spoke of the need to set out a “realistic programme of reform”, taking account of the budget position and the “capacity” of the system, while schools also battle worsening behaviour and attendances.

In Holyrood, the education secretary said: "I am firmly of the view that some subject areas would be better served by practical assessment. Now, how that might be administered in every subject area will involve engagement with subject specialists in our schools, but there should not be, necessarily, a requirement in the future that every single course needs a final exam per se.”

Ms Gilruth highlighted the potential for “quick wins” that do not need to wait for wider reforms, and how there had been a “much more flexible approach” to continuous assessment in universities since the pandemic.

She also confirmed the Government would be legislating to replace the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) in coming weeks, after the process was postponed for a year in June 2023, with the new body to be operational by next year.

"The role of the new qualifications body has to be central to a move away from an examinations-heavy qualifications focus, towards more continuous assessment,” she said.



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